No one likes to lose money. It’s human nature to want to be successful and able to take care of ourselves and those we care about. And dental practices are no exception. While patient care is the foundation of a dental practice, being financially successful is what allows a practice to continue offering this care.
That means staying on top of your practice finances and actively working to avoid fiscal pitfalls that could be decreasing your profits. To help with that we’ve listed five common ways dental practices lose money and how to avoid them, helping to ensure that your financial success turns into more opportunities to provide exceptional patient care.
Avoid this: Believing the Patient is “Always Right”
By now anyone who’s worked in or even been in a retail store has probably witness a situation disproving the time-honored phrase “the customer is always right.” And in the world of dentistry the same can be said for patients. As a dental professional it’s your job to care for and cater to patients as much as you can. But what happens when a patient eats too soon after getting a crown and chips the restoration—despite repeated warnings not to. Or when a patient returns after completing orthodontic work complaining their teeth are no longer straight, only for them to later admit they frequently forget to wear their retainer? If you still believe the patient is always right, you could find yourself easily talked into covering the expenses of additional work needed to fix or replace a patient’s dental work despite the fact you did nothing wrong. This can lead to lost revenue from those appointments as well as from paying appointments you could have scheduled instead.
Do this: Always Treat Patients Fairly
At the end of the day you need to find a balance between keeping patients happy and knowing your own worth as a dental professional. That means having difficult conversations with patients who come in with complaints obviously caused by their own lack of judgment. To do this make sure to give the patient plenty of time to explain their side and then respond respectfully why you will be happy to help correct the problem but it won’t be complimentary. Sometimes, offering these treatments at a small discount (say 5-10%) can help strike a good balance between ensuring your practice makes some revenue and your relationship with the patient remains strong.
However, to help avoid this type of issue even before it arises always clearly and thoroughly explain any follow-up actions a patient must make (or avoid) to ensure that a procedure is successful and doesn’t require additional unexpected work.
Avoid this: Having Poorly Trained Front Desk Staff
The success of the person or people working at your front desk can make a significant difference in the amount of new or returning patients you have. So continuing to get by with someone whose phone or people skills are lackluster at best can lead to missed revenue opportunities. After all, if someone calls in enquiring about the practice while searching for a new dentist lack of enthusiasm, knowledge or helpfulness can mean that potential patient ends up at the practice next door.
Do this: Have Specific Guidelines in Place for Front Desk Employees
Instead of leaving front desk work up to chance, have set procedures for team members at the front desk to follow. Anything from handling a phone call from a potential new patient, checking patients in, or following up after appointments should all have these standards. For example, if an appointment is running behind and the next patient is going to have to wait your front desk team can follow simple steps like these to keep the patient satisfied: 1) Let them know immediately there will be a short wait and apologize sincerely for the inconvenience, 2) Offer a refreshment and ask them if there’s anything else they need to make their wait more comfortable, 3) Continue to provide updates on the status of their appointment.
When your front desk works as a well-oiled machine your patients will be happier for it and your practice more profitable.
Avoid this: Not Fostering a Positive Office Culture
In a previous article we discussed how important culture is to a workplace and dental practices are no exception. While you might not “see” it directly, employee turnover can cost your practice financially in more ways than one. First, thanks to the time and resources needed to train new employees before they’re fully productive, and second, thanks to an inability to get high performing employees to stick around, leaving you with a team not motivated to do their best.
Do this: Show Employees They Matter to the Practice
To avoid costly turnover and unproductive teammates, take actionable steps to create a practice that people genuinely enjoy working for. In morning huddles make it a safe space to discuss issues and be receptive to these problems—and help offer solutions. Use plenty of positive reinforcement and praise employees often, not just during reviews, so they know they work is appreciated. Foster team bonding with fun activities like monthly lunches or holiday gift exchanges. A positive culture that feels safe and welcoming will go a long way in helping your practice retain employees that take pride in their work and work hard to show it.
Does anything on our “Avoid” list sound familiar to you? If so hopefully you can use these helpful tips to make some adjustments and enjoy greater financial success. After all, even small tweaks to the way a practice is run can make a significant difference to its bottom line.